2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni – Short Take Road Test
Valentino Balboni was destined to become Lamborghini’s chief test driver the moment his parents picked that name. Isn’t it perfect? Kids named Valentino Balboni don’t grow up to be obstetricians.
The capitano, Ferruccio Lamborghini, hired Balboni in 1967 as a broom pusher for the service department. Balboni drove his first Miura in 1973—actually, “September 5, 1973, at 10:10 in the morning,” he says. “You never forget your first love.”
Were the big boss alive today, he’d probably dope-slap Balboni for all the fuss he’s getting, especially now that 250 special Gallardos have been built in his honor. The limited-edition LP550-2 Valentino Balboni has a 5.2-liter V-10 making 542 horsepower (10 less than standard Gallardo LP560s) and bears one crucial distinction: It is rear-wheel drive only.
Like the Miura and like Balboni himself—who, at 61, has segued into semi-retirement as the Audi-owned company’s customer-relations ambassador—this Lambo has no problem going sideways.
First, a disclaimer: This car is sold out, and production has wrapped. What with your endless begging for more minivan tests, it has taken us until now to VBox-up one of the $225,795 Balbonis (actually, this one is $247,305 with extra buttering, including $15,600 carbon-ceramic brakes and $4235 carbon-fiber engine-bay trim).
It’s more beastly than the slightly aloof slot car it’s based on, being louder and a little squirmy when accelerating and spearing toward an apex. A Balboni is definitely more intense and, with the gated six-speed manual to manhandle, more fun than the regular Gallardo.
Reduced traction has downsides, though. Our 3410-pound Balboni test car is lighter than the Gallardo (by 97 pounds), but it’s also the slowest variant, at 3.6 seconds to 60. The AWD Gallardo 560-4 with the e-gear transmission needs just 3.2 seconds, but that’s with all four tires clawing for traction and computers micromanaging the launch. A Balboni could be had with e-gear, for another $10,000, but not with all-wheel drive.
Wallop the throttle, and the V-10 sounds like it’s shredding platinum Visa cards as the car pitches into a sensational YouTube-Clip-of-the-Week drift. But show anything less than Valentino’s own fearlessness on the gas, and the Balboni straightens right up, hunkers down, and—at the limit—plows. The so-so 0.93 g on the skidpad reflects the understeer.
This is not necessarily a lament. Perhaps better than anyone, Valentino Balboni knows that not all who possess wealth are endowed with the skill to handle what it begets. For them, it’s best to park the Balboni between the Chuck Yeager–edition Gulfstream and the Fuzzy Zoeller commemorative Club Car and wait for instruction from the master.